Amid uncertainty over the future of the Congress-JDS government in Karnataka following resignations by rebel MLAs, one of the concerns of Congress leaders is that Assembly Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar will show no favouritism despite being a Congress leader for many years.
The 69-year-old five-term MLA from Srinivasapura constituency of Kolar district holds a science degree and describes himself as an agriculturist. He has twice served as Speaker of the Assembly and has the reputation of being a knowledgeable, well-read man, who has occasional flashes of temper but is a smooth operator in general.
Kumar rose from student politics in Bengaluru in the 1970s and associated with the Congress early in his political career. He later shifted to Janata Party and Janata Dal before returning to the Congress around two decades ago. His name was also linked to a murder probe in the Srinivasapura constituency he represents. Kumar was eventually acquitted in 2007 in the case.
As a legislator, Kumar was known to be an orator who made thought-provoking speeches in the House and tried to guide young legislators about the history of the legislature, politics and the world in general — often diving into folklore and religious texts to drive home points.
Often frustrated over not being made a minister despite winning many elections, Kumar was finally appointed a minister in the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in 2016. He served as the health minister and is best remembered for his efforts to make private hospitals and clinics more accountable.
With his sizeable experience as Speaker, Kumar is known to generally follow the rule book when it comes to making decisions. “I cannot stray from the rules even if it benefits some but not others,’’ Kumar said after deciding to examine in-depth the resignations of 10 MLAs who met him on Thursday on the directions of the Supreme Court.
“I am not a follower of anybody or a leader of anybody. I am a follower of the Constitution of India,’’ the Speaker said this week when asked if any political bias would creep into his decision-making with regard to the MLAs who have submitted their
Sixteen MLAs of the ruling coalition have submitted their resignations to the Speaker. If the resignations are accepted, the coalition will have 101 MLAs in the 224-member House versus the BJP’s 105. One of the reasons that the Speaker is keen to be seen as going by the rules is the criticism attracted in 2011 from the Supreme Court by former Karnataka Assembly Speaker K G Bopaiah.
Bopaiah, a BJP legislator in the current Assembly, had disqualified 11 members of the BJP after they withdrew support to the B S Yeddyurappa-led government in October 2010. In an order on May 13, 2011, the Supreme Court had said the Speaker’s action revealed a “partisan trait” and did not “meet the twin tests of natural justice and fair play’’.